“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
-Laurel K. Hamilton, “Mistral’s Kiss”
Depression is a universal sensation, one that every individual experiences at some point in life. It’s not until the feeling lingers with you for weeks at a time, robbing you of the ability to enjoy the simple things in life and getting in the way of taking care of yourself or completing the easiest of tasks at work or school, that it becomes a major problem. With depression, there is a tremendous difference between it being something you feel and something you have. Happy thoughts or encouraging words will only get a person so far. When you get to the point where you can’t live your life anymore or you think being dead would be a preferred alternative to feeling nothing at all, it’s time to consider treatment options.
Probably the best first step in treating depression is to start taking an antidepressant. Starting a medication can be scary, especially with the social stigma that surrounds medication and mental health in general. Patience and some self-awareness are necessary for anyone taking an antidepressant for the first time. It takes a few weeks—two to four, on average—for the medication to really kick in and make a difference. Side effects of any antidepressant can include: nausea, headaches, dry mouth, fatigue or insomnia, increased depression or suicidal thoughts, vivid dreaming, and sexual dysfunction. Everyone is different though, so if you experience any side effect that isn’t considered common, tell your doctor about it right away.
One of the smartest things you can do when starting an antidepressant is to tell someone about it. It can be a scary thing to talk about, but realize that the hardest part was getting help in the first place. And please understand that you are absolutely not alone. Letting close friends, family, roommates, or an employer know about your recent decision can be beneficial to you in the long run. They’ll understand any strange behavior from you and be able to help you figure out whether or not the medication is helping. They can also be supportive by asking how you’re doing or checking in to see if you’re noticing any improvements in thought, mood, or attitude.
Antidepressants are by no means a be-all, end-all to depression. In fact, they work best when used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, like group or psychotherapy sessions or mindfulness exercises. There are also small, simple things you can do to help yourself. Writing is an excellent place to start, whether it’s a piece of fiction or sitting down with a diary Music is another thing you can turn to for something to relate to (“Creep”, “Hurt”) or for encouragement (“Unwritten”, “Life is Beautiful”, “Hold On”). Being honest with yourself emotionally also goes a long way. There is absolutely no shame in showing feeling and emotion; being so connected with and aware of yourself is a beautiful thing.
There are tons of amazing resources that can be found online for those dealing with depression. Sometimes finding other people to relate to can be helpful; in any given year, one in four adults suffers from a mental disorder that can be diagnosed. Try browsing through these two lists of famous people who have struggled with depression or a different mental health issue. This article put together in 2010 talks about depression in America specifically. Here, the CDC discusses who is most likely to feel serious depression. Quote junkies can check out these two compilations of sayings that convey some feelings that come along with depression.
Maybe you yourself aren’t dealing with depression, but if you know someone who is it would be extremely considerate and compassionate to educate yourself. This poignant video relating depression to a black dog is one of the most spot-on I’ve seen. Hyperbole and a Half has an excellent comic that describes sensations of a depressed individual. Even Cosmopolitan magazine has an article suggesting what shouldn’t be said to someone suffering from depression. This article lists ways to help someone with depression, and here you can find a list of myths about antidepressants.
The bottom line is that depression and any other mental health disorder are serious concerns and should be treated with the same kind of care and attention that physical ailments receive. Take care of yourself. And if you know someone with depression, give them your love and support.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please seek help immediately. Suicidepreventionlifeline.org lists a hotline number on the very top of its homepage that can be called at any time. Suicide.org lists every state and gives hotlines for each state, while also including an international hotline at the top of its page.